CatsIllustrated - RECAP: Big men power Cats past UAB
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RECAP: Big men power Cats past UAB

E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards combine for 32 points, 17 rebounds as No. 9 Kentucky coasts to 69-58 win over UAB. 

Kentucky junior center Nick Richards slammed in two of his 16 points.
Kentucky junior center Nick Richards slammed in two of his 16 points. (Jeff Drummond/Cats Illustrated)

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With fellow big man Nate Sestina sidelined for potentially the next month due to a fractured wrist, Kentucky big men E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards know the Wildcats are counting on them now more than ever.

The frontcourt tandem delivered on Friday night against UAB, combining for 32 points and 17 rebounds as the No. 9 Wildcats coasted to a 69-58 victory at Rupp Arena. Montgomery set a new career scoring high with his 16 points.

"Better. Better," UK head coach John Calipari said of his big men. "... E.J. was good today. He was good. Nick was good. Nick rebounded above the rim, snatched balls, makes us different."

"I thought their bigs were outstanding," UAB head coach Robert Ehsan said. "As good, maybe, as they've been all year to my knowledge from what I've seen."

Kentucky (6-1) also got nine points and 12 assists from sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans and nine points from sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley in a balanced offensive attack.

The Cats led 38-25 at the half and threatened to push the margin over 20 on multiple occasions in the second half, but the biggest lead (67-47) came with 4:31 remaining in the game. The Blazers avoided the blowout by knocking down eight of their 16 attempts from the 3-point arc.

UAB (4-2) got a pair of 19-point performances from guards Tyreek Scott-Grayson and Jalen Benjamin.

*****

In this Cats Illustrated "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the UK victory…

THE GOOD:

E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards each delivered a nice performance. Kentucky hasn't gotten that from both big men on the same night too often, and the timing could not be better with Nate Sestina sitting out approximately four weeks with a fractured wrist.

THE BAD:

Kentucky won comfortably but was never really able to put the hammer down on UAB. The Cats' largest run of the game was a 9-0 spurt. The Blazers seemed to have an answer each time UK was threatening to blow the game wide open.

THE UGLY:

The Blazers attempted only five free throws on the night, making just two of them.

GAME BALL:

Ashton Hagans, Kentucky -- The big men claimed the scoring glory in this one, but much of that success was owed to the playmaking of the Cats' sophomore point guard. Hagans dished out 12 assists, turned the ball over only twice, and provided his customary smothering defense on the ball.

BY THE NUMBERS:

3 - Consecutive games with Kentucky recording 19-plus assists.

3-3 - The Wildcats evened the all-time series with UAB at three wins apiece. The Blazers entered the matchup as one of only five programs to have a winning record against the Wildcats in the modern era.

7 - Dunks for the Cats, including five by Nick Richards.

12 - Assists by UK point guard Ashton Hagans matched his career-high.

178-7 - Kentucky's record under John Calipari when the opponent scores 63 points or less.

599th - Win for UK at Rupp Arena.

20,401 - Attendance at Rupp Arena, the highest of any UK game this season.

QUOTABLE:

"We could say there are better point guards in the country, but you got to tell me who you're talking about." -- UK head coach John Calipari on Ashton Hagans

UP NEXT:

Kentucky returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 7, at Rupp Arena against Fairleigh Dickinson. Tipoff is slated for 4 ET on the SEC Network.